Dear President Susan Herbst,
I write to you today as a UConn student, but more specifically as a UConn woman and feminist. I want to first express my admiration for you as a woman who has made it in a “man’s” world, who has faced the odds and done the seemingly unthinkable; become the first woman president at UConn over the course of its 130-year history. You serve as a shining example that even the most challenging of ceilings can be broken, and you speak to the considerable strides women have made over the last 50 years in academia and the professional world. One of the most vivid memories I have of my admiration for your accomplishments was when Gloria Steinem gave you a standing ovation for your successes, along with a full auditorium of students and faculty, during her speech at the 40 year anniversary of the UConn Women’s Center this past fall. It is on behalf of that standing ovation, my feminist foremothers, and the respect that I feel for your success personally that I write this letter of concern and intervention to you today.
Over the course of the past few weeks, UConn has gradually unveiled its “New University Visual Identity Program” which will make UConn the school’s new “wordmark” with a unified appearance, and will require a change in the Husky Dog logo from its current mascot to a more “powerful and aggressive” looking logo. In your Second State of the University Address, you spoke to the reasoning behind this re-branding and logo change, and these justifications left me overcome by waves of anger and frustration. As a UConn student who is proud of my University’s academics and my future degree, I feel frustrated; as a woman student living at this campus I am outright offended. I am appalled by the selective amnesia these justifications display and angered at the superficiality of this Visual Identity Program.
The updated identity package that will be presented on the 18th, like the wordmark, is intended to show what UConn and our student athletes convey every day: poise, confidence, competitiveness, and the determination to succeed in the classroom and on the field and the court.
The aforementioned was one of the statements made in your address. Here is a timeline of some events that are disturbingly absent from this account of the past year in UConn athletics:
- On June 21st 2012, UConn Men’s basketball becomes the first BCS school team to face a postseason ban based solely on low APR (Academic Progress Rate) scores.
- On October 6th 2012, Lyle McCombs is arrested on charges of second degree breach of peace for a domestic violence dispute in which he was, “yelling, pushing, and spitting at his girlfriend” during an argument outside a residence hall.
- On February 11th 2013, Enosch Wolf is arrested on charges of third degree burglary, first degree criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct when he “refused to leave” a female student’s apartment, “grabbed the hair of the victim and pushed her head” and “knocked the glasses off the victim’s face with his hand.”
- On March 21st 2013, Tyler Olander is arrested for trespassing in a structure or conveyance while on Spring Break in Panama City, Florida.
These are serious marks against both our athletic program and our university as a whole — marks that, other than a decision made by Coach Kevin Ollie to suspend Wolf indefinitely, have gone unaddressed, unmentioned, and unacknowledged by UConn authorities. What does this timeline say when juxtaposed with your justification? It beckons the question, what does UConn do with marks like these? The answer appears to be: we turn them blue and shape them into something new.
Instead of giving these problematic aspects of male athletic peer culture at UConn a second look or a giving the real face of athletics a true makeover, it appears that the focus of your administration is prioritizing the remodeling of the fictional face of the Husky Logo. Instead of communicating a zero tolerance atmosphere for this kind of behavior, increasing or vocalizing support to violence against women prevention efforts on campus in the face of such events, or increasing support to student run programs that seek to work with athletes on issues of violence as well as academic issues, it would appear that your administration is more interested in fostering consumerism and corporatization than education and community. Another example of this shift in priorities can be seen in the current administrations selection of the new logo — a selection made with no involvement from or consultation with the normal, everyday, non-Olympian student body:
Contrary to speculation, the Husky will not appear to be mean, snarling, or capable of frightening small children! Instead he will be rendered as the sleek, beautiful animal a real Husky truly is.
Well President Herbst, the new Husky logo may not be capable of frightening small children, but the face of real life UConn athletics is certainly capable of frightening college women.
It is looking right through you and saying, ‘Do not mess with me.’ This is a streamlined, fighting dog, and I cannot wait for it to be on our uniforms and court.~Geno Auriemma stated about the new logo change.
What terrifies me about the admiration of such traits is that I know what it feels like to have a real life Husky look straight through you and to feel powerless, and to wonder if even the administration cannot “mess with them.” And I know I am not alone. It is on this note that I ask you to hear these words. And whether you hear me or not, I thank you for the ceilings you have shattered that benefit women in academia such as myself. In the words of Audre Lorde, “this letter is in repayment.”
Carolyn Luby is a senior at the University of Connecticut majoring in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and Spanish and minoring in Latino/a Studies. She is involved in various different feminist groups and violence against women prevention efforts on campus and has particular interest in global feminisms and anti-imperial anti-colonial feminisms.